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Waldrop, seniors close out careers as best in state


MEMPHIS — Working on only two days rest didn’t matter. Topping off two years of almost flawless success for the Farragut Admirals baseball program was too important to let a slightly tired arm get in the way.

High School All-American candidate and Vanderbilt University signee Kyle Waldrop is the crown jewel in a collection of FHS senior class pearls.


Waldrop carried a perfect 13-0 pitching record and tiny earned run average of about 0.10 into the Class AAA high school state title game Saturday night against Halls.

Though saying he’d never pitched on two days rest during his entire FHS career, Waldrop gutted out a three-hit, one walk performance while helping his own cause with a first-inning RBI triple in leading the Admirals past Halls 3-1 in AutoZone Park.

“He’s a warrior, he’s a tough kid,” FHS head coach Tommy Pharr said of Waldrop. “Pitched well, strong, and got the big hit in the first inning. He’s just a great player and a great kid and a great person.”

Did this second-consecutive Class AAA state title push the nation’s No. 4-ranked Admirals (94-3 two-year record) past some of the other great back-to-back championship teams in Tennessee high school history?

“People always talk about (Murfreesboro) Oakland teams and the Germantown teams, but as coach Pharr said in our little huddle after the game, ‘now, in the future in Tennessee baseball, they’re going to think of the Farragut High School Admirals (2003 and 2004),’” senior centerfielder Harrison Eldridge said. “Going out this way, with two state championships, I couldn’t ask for more.”

Led by Waldrop both on the mound and at the plate, this FHS Class of 2004 “will be a hard group to replace just for the way they are, the way they play the game, the people they are, the leaders they are,” Pharr said. “That’s a great group, that’s a great legacy, back-to-back state championships, ninety-(four) wins (46-2 in 2004). It’s hard to beat.”

Is this the best high school senior class you’ve ever coached? “It probably is,” Pharr said. “I mean we’ve got a lot of good baseball players out there, a lot of good kids.”

WALDROP, SENIORS

Saturday’s short rest period was a new challenge for a pitcher coming off an unbeaten season as the Admirals No. 2 hurler in 2003 with almost equally impressive 0.70 earned run average.

“I’d probably say I was eighty-five to ninety percent,” Waldrop said about Saturday. “I had good stuff there, but it was kind of streaky. I didn’t seem to have it the whole game like I normally do. Coming off two days rest is kind of tough, but we did a good job trying to get me ready. My arm felt good for the most part.

“Typically, I have a few more strikeouts, but, I mean, they did a good job, they’re a good hitting team,” Waldrop added about Halls.

But while the 6-foot-5 senior continued to throw around 89 miles per hour into the late innings, he recorded his only three strikeouts of the game by striking out the side in the sixth.

“I think I hit ninety-three (miles per hour) in the first inning, that’s about where I topped out at,” Waldrop said. “I stayed consistently eighty-eight, eighty-nine, and I could have reached back and throw it harder if I needed to. I mainly tried to be more of a pitcher than just trying to throw it as hard as I can.”

One strike away from the state title repeat, Waldrop came in way to tight on Spencer Long and hit him with a high hard curve ball, putting the tying run on base. “I was getting a little too fired up, I wanted to strike the last guy out,” Waldrop said. “It was a curve ball and I threw it too hard because I wanted to strike him out real bad to end it. I was really just too fired up there. I felt better in the later innings, I think. I loosened up a little bit better.”

When asked if he felt like he was losing control at the end, “I knew I had it in my back pocket if I needed it, so I felt pretty comfortable about that,” Waldrop said.

When Pharr met with Waldrop on the mound following the hit-batter, “I just told him to try and not do too much, he was jacked up there,” Pharr said. “He was wanting a strikeout.”

Though admitting to feeling “a little pressure” in trying to whip a feisty a Halls team that FHS knocked off 15-0 less than two weeks ago, “we always feel good when Kyle’s on the mound,” Eldridge said. “We always feel that he’s going to get the job done.”

“I don’t even know if it’s sunk in yet,” Waldrop said. “I think after I sit back on it for a few weeks and maybe look at it, it could be different, but this is definitely more special right now. A beautiful ballpark right here, just to play on a field of this caliber and going out as a senior with two in a row is just more icing on the cake right there ... it’s definitely special to get two in a row.”

Among the other seniors Waldrop praised was catcher Scotty Dean. “Scotty did a heck of a job filling in Michael’s (McKenry’s) spot,” Waldrop said. “We didn’t lose a beat when Scotty came in.”

Dean joins third-baseman/pitcher Philip Sherrard and right fielder/pitcher Drew Reagan as two-year senior starters — Dean started early last season while McKenry was out with an injury.

Eldridge, a three-year starter who combined power and speed in almost equal measure as a dangerous leadoff hitter, will always be remembered for his heroics against Science Hill as a sophomore.

One strike from elimination in the sectional at FHS in 2002, Eldridge’s do-or-die double down the left-field line tied the game. The Admirals won going away in extra innings.

In addition to his reliable stick and starting pitching role the past two seasons, Sherrard made a pair of difficult ground-ball putouts at third base Saturday night, one on a diving stop. “He made some great plays, Philip’s just a quality player,” Pharr said. “And he gets a single to centerfield and turns it into a double.”

In addition to his hitting and fielding skills, Reagan served as the Admirals’ closer in 2004 and put out the fire in a number of games, including the Scenic City Classic final against McCallie and the second-round state tournament game against Hunters Lane.

“It’s just great for these guys and all of my friends, it’s a good way to go out,” Reagan said. “Two years in a row, it’s hard to do. Like coach Pharr said, ‘it’s almost like a national championship,’ two years in a row, without the recruiting. It’s amazing what we’ve done, I’m proud of us, and I’m very happy.”

Sherrard was both thrilled and grateful: “It feels great, playing with these guys is awesome and I’m going to miss it,” Sherrard said. “This team is better than any one I’ve ever seen or ever watched. It’s just fun to play with, and it’s just amazing how we can go (94-3). I can’t explain how awesome it feels.”

Senior David King stepped into the starting spot in left field and produced several clutch hits. None bigger than a two-strike single to begin the FHS fifth-inning Saturday, as King would steal second and eventually score a key insurance run on Cody Brown’s two-out single.

“That was huge,” Pharr said. “That takes a little pressure off of you. The boost gives you a little bit of cushion and you feel like with Kyle on the mound, they’re going to have to do something to get that (back).”

Senior John Pigg provided depth with his punch as a designated hitter for during the regular season.

Senior pitcher Tyler Powell provided much-needed depth in the FHS pitching rotation.

 

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